COEUR d’ALENE — Councilman Dan Gookin said Thursday that the city of Coeur d’Alene should consider a hiring freeze in light of what he thinks are tough economic times ahead.
“I think we’re on the cusp of another long, deep recession,” he said during a preview of the city’s 2022-23 financial plan.
Board members and department heads attended the morning meeting and offered proposals, which in many cases included additional staff, new equipment, overdue repairs, updated software, and expense. increased.
Gookin urged caution. He said economic challenges are coming and “are going to hit us all hard.”
“We have never used the word food shortage in this country before, and it will happen. And it’s going to hit us,” he said.
Gookin said a hiring freeze should be considered to ease the impending pain for residents.
“I represent the public, and they are going to suffer,” he said.
City Administrator Troy Tymesen said in his latest budget the city was under water by nearly $1 million in current spending.
It is better now.
“The good news is that we have a healthy fund balance. We have an urban renewal closure and we have continued migration to our community,” he said.
Coeur d’Alene faces challenges growing that many communities wish they had, he said.
“That people want to be here,” Tymesen said. “They like what they see, so they come here.”
The departments also submitted spending proposals for the city’s $8.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
These included $986,610 for 70 self-contained breathing apparatus for the fire department; $547,855 for a project to upgrade the municipal services network and $600,000 for the remodeling of street businesses.
Councilor Christie Wood said the town has plenty of job openings and needs to find a way to entice workers to move here.
The police department has 13 openings, Police Chief Lee White said.
“It’s the heart of public safety,” Wood said.
“What if we tried to go to health care until the age of 65? It’s an attractive benefit,” she said.
Councilor Kiki Miller, who sits on the Regional Partnership on Housing and Growth Issues, said the focus should remain on affordable housing.
She said a study found that people between the ages of 30 and 40 pay an average of 51% of their monthly income for rent.
“It’s not sustainable,” Miller said. “We have a lot of people leaving this area.”
Gookin said the city needs to realize it has lost the battle for affordable housing. As asking prices fall due to rising interest rates, estimated land values rise. He said the assessment of his home just released by the county rose 42% from around $800,000 to over $1 million.
Councilor Woody McEvers and Mayor Jim Hammond both said the city needs to hire a public information officer. He hasn’t had one for several years.
McEvers said city staff were doing an amazing job, but the public didn’t know it.
“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re No. 1. You’re killing it,” McEvers said.
Hammond said the town needs to tell its people its story.
“I think disclosure of the true facts is important. And I think it’s doing our community a disservice not to,” he said. “I think people deserve to know what’s really going on in their city.”
The city’s fiscal year 2021–22 budget was approximately $109 million.
City Council will continue to make budget calculations. It is expected to adopt a preliminary budget in August and establish a budget for the 2022-23 financial year in September.